Somalis Abroad

Somalis in Minnesota Celebrate Somali Independence Day

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Somalis in Minnesota celebrated an abbreviated version of their usual Somali Independence Day festivities on June 13, 2015. The festival was filled with sporting events, food, exotic non-alcoholic drinks and live music. The atmosphere was one of community and camaraderie.A longer celebration of Somali Independence is usually a week-long affair, spanning from June 26 to July 1. A predominantly Muslim population, Somalis in Minnesota celebrated ahead of schedule this year to accommodate the arrival of Ramadan. Ramadan follows the lunar observation and starts on a different day each year, with Muslims abstaining from food, beverages and other pleasures during daylight hours. Devout Muslims pray and reflect more during Ramadan.On June 26, 1960, Britain relinquished colonial power in Somalia’s northern territories, with Italy following suit in the south on July 1. The two regions were unified establishing the Republic of Somalia with current internationally recognized borders.

Somali Independence Day commemorates the Somali people’s struggle for freedom and their victory over brutal colonial powers. Check out this vintage footage, captured by Soviet cameramen, from the first Somali Independence Day in 1960.

Abdulahi Suldaan Mohamed — also known as “Timacade” or “White Hair” — was one of the more prominent Somali poets at the time. He marked the occasion by composing a famous poem; the title crudely translates as “Remove and Replace.”

The poem starts with a long preamble, a literary device commonly used in Somali poetry (direct verses are rare). Timacade used the long preamble to ensure the poem would meet expectations, both from the Somali people and himself. “If I screw up now, ask me later,” he thundered in one verse. Timacade was so exuberant he worried about making a mistake in the poem. He requested that any analysis of “Remove and Replace” be postponed, and that everyone enjoy the moment.

In the poem, the newly unveiled Somali flag is used as a metaphor: Its five-point star and its blue background represent the nation’s new dawn. Timacade then lists a host of ideals represented by the Somali flag including dignity, prosperity and a bright future.

Back in 1960, the Somali people were surely feeling exuberant, but that didn’t stop Timacade from unleashing a torrent of anger on the nation’s colonial administrators. “Remove and Replace” includes an unflinching portrait of the British and Italian representatives who ruled Somalia: The colonial bureaucrats are described as “obese, whose pants no longer fit with nine cooks, a nanny, a driver, a security guard who sleep on beds full of cotton draped in silk.” Meanwhile, Somalis were usually thin in stature. Timacade used the weight difference to illustrate an underfed Somali population and its overfed oppressors.

Timacade’s poem acknowledged the sense of community, camaraderie and exuberance of the time. His poem inspired a high set of ideals, still burned into the Somali soul. Somalis have brought those values to Minnesota.

Article first appeared at Minneapolis Star Tribune. Follow Jamal Abdulahi on Twitter at @fugini

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